Thursday, December 16, 2021

Disconcerted and Angry

I notice that many Christians, both here and in America, are angry with their political leaders and disturbed by events that are rocking their society. I suspect that they are disorientated because they are living at the end of an era. Certainties that they took for granted are being shaken and new certainties that they don’t like are being established in their place.

For the last few centuries, Christianity has been in ascendancy. There were occasional setbacks, but these have generally been outweighed by regular revivals. On the whole, the church was growing and its influence on society was strong.

During most of this season, the interests of the church and the policies of their national government were strongly aligned, regardless of which party was in power. Christian values were widely accepted across most of society, and the government backed them up with supportive laws. The education system reinforced Christian values in the hearts and minds of young people as they were moving into society.

The old era of Christian privilege and favour has now ended. In fact, it probably ended a generation ago, but the full effects of the changes in society are only now becoming clear. Laws that are anathema to Christians are being passed. Political leaders that they don’t like are being elected. The education system no longer supports the Christian worldview. Broadcast and social media are often hostile to the church and the gospel.

The strong influence that Christians had on the political and social spheres is gone. The society that they previously shaped seems to be disintegrating before their eyes. This is all very disturbing.

When the life you were comfortable with begins to disappear, fear and anger emerge. When you are used to being on top of things, it is disconcerting to find yourself at the bottom of the heap. When you are used to having the government on your side, it is frustrating to find it fighting against you. When you are used to being in power, it is frustrated to become powerless. Loss of power is hugely annoying. This is the reason for the widespread anger that has ensnared many Christians.

When people are disorientated, they can react in several different ways.

  • They can retreat from social life and hide from the changes by pretending that they are not happening. This is not a viable solution.

  • Some people look for conspiracy theories to explain what has happened to their society. They identify evil people or organisations that are secretly manipulating the political system and deceiving the people to destroy the good things that were established in the past. Conspiracy theories are a great way to shift responsibility. If the problems in the world are caused by powerful, evil people, the failure of Christians to share the gospel is not responsible.

  • Some people give their allegiance to unconventional political leaders who promise to restore the world that was lost. These leaders often strengthen their support amongst the people by encouraging them to follow conspiracies.

The problem with each of these responses is that the era which is finished will not come back. Politicians who promise to re-establish the old order will fail, so they should not be trusted. Political power is the problem, not the solution.

The frequent promises of Christian prophets that a revival will restore the era that was lost are also a false hope. Methods that worked in the old world will be ineffective in the new era that has emerged. The modern church’s disconnect with the new world that has emerged makes it look foolish and out of touch. Ranting about social issues that the world has accepted makes the church look like it is trying to impose its values and rules on people who have moved on. They don’t want to be controlled by an obsolete church and they will fight against any attempts to restore its power.

Rather than being stuck in the past, Christians should seek to understand the future. They should be looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead and preparing to live effectively in the new era. The church needs a new vision that will carry it successfully into the new world that is arriving. This vision will have to be radically different from what would work in the past.

The church must learn to operate without the need for power. It will have to learn to operate in the face of government hostility. It will no longer be welcome at the centres of power, so Christians must learn how to function effectively on the fringes of society, and bring transformation from the outside in.

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